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I have a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, a master's degree in mechatronics and robotics, and my PhD is due soon. After my PhD, I would like to work professionally in the field of space technology (I was interested in this topic as a child, and recently I had to return to it again partially).

There are two job offers (I’ll say right away that this is not some kind of responsible and super-highly paid position). For my entry level will do:

  1. Programmer who works with data from sensory systems (star trackers and so on).
  2. Analysis of the structural structures of space vehicles (rockets, in particular).

There are some peculiarities: in the first one I will need to quickly learn C/C#. And in the second, remember the strength of materials and delve into the designs and materials of missile bodies.

I have already been invited to the first position. On the second, I have a very serious competitor, and the employer has not yet made a decision. And to be honest, I will not be upset, because the first position is connected more with control systems and modeling, which is much closer to me. And in general, in spacecraft such as satellites or orbital observatories, it seems to me that there is much more room for creativity.

And here is the problem that worries me: let's say I get a job in the field of space technology. But I never studied purposefully for this, not a word is written in my diploma that "this person was specially trained to work with rockets, satellites, space observatories," etc. Not at all. But I know that in these areas people with a similar education are constantly needed. And here is a person who got there - how can he learn in real time? What knowledge to get (physics, astrophysics, strength of materials, control theory)? In what order to do it, what books to read, what tasks to solve? After all, there is so much to count... And I have one, in my opinion, harmful feature: I start to figure something out and, being afraid not to have time to figure it out, if I dive deep into one of the aspects, I start to grab onto everything. And often it turns out that one aspect cannot be considered in isolation from the other. In general, how to properly build your professional growth in the practical field of space technology?

The ending turned out to be a little chaotic, but I beg your pardon - today was a difficult day.

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    TLDR; You are worried that you cannot get into space related technology because you don't know everything there is to know about space related tech?
    – Questor
    Commented May 9, 2023 at 14:36
  • @Questor exactly
    – ayr
    Commented May 9, 2023 at 14:52
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    On a very low level sensors (temperature, pressure, photoelectric, distance, humidity, capacity and so on) are just analog (resistance or voltage) or digital - never mind if they are used in space-tech, industrial applications or your smart-home devices. Don't worry - as keshlam stated correctly you will learn how to read, transform, interpret, display, record or react to such values along the way - the rest is just logical computation..
    – iLuvLogix
    Commented May 9, 2023 at 15:01
  • @iLuvLogix Yes. In general, I would not want to dwell only on sensors and all that. I think that for professional growth in this area, I will simply have to study a little the physical processes that take place in space. And only then will it be possible to create and build the machines necessary for this. But I got the gist. I will have the opportunity to learn new things.
    – ayr
    Commented May 9, 2023 at 16:47
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    @dtn I commented on the lower levels of technical equipment as an example because at the very beginning of your carreer you won't be required to have a broad and in-depth insight like a chief technical engineer or the like since you will most certainly be a small but valuable cog in that machine and won't be burdened with having such responsibilities. Since it seems that you show a lot of enthusiasm about that specific field I'm sure you'll move up the ranks as you gain more experience & knowledge while working in that industry. Good luck and all the best for your ventures!
    – iLuvLogix
    Commented May 9, 2023 at 17:00

3 Answers 3

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Welcome to being a professional. What you do is accept that you will learn as you go, that you will be working with a team who can get you started, and that in principle programming is programming -- you want to write the most efficient and most robust code you can, no matter what you are working on. There will be teammates and code review to help guide you. If you need specialized knowledge, you'll discover that as you go, and be pointed to resources to learn it from.

Nobody comes into a job knowing everything about it. Nobody is expected to.

If you want to do some homework, look at all the job listings in the field you're interested in, see what skills people are commonly looking for, and consider whether you want to invest in one or more of them despite the fact that the job you land may not turn out to use that particular skill.

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    I get the point, you're right. Perhaps I have a limiting belief that people who work in this field are perfect in their knowledge, and their engineering skills are absolute, and they can solve any problem in 3 seconds. I think that this idea of ​​mine is a very serious delusion.
    – ayr
    Commented May 9, 2023 at 16:50
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    @dtn it is possible that you have watched too many Hollywood movies related to the space industry
    – Questor
    Commented May 9, 2023 at 16:51
  • @Questor Something has definitely driven that limiting wedge. I need to get rid of him.
    – ayr
    Commented May 9, 2023 at 16:54
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    It's not an uncommon misunderstanding. Folks coming from academia have been working with spelled-out prerequisites and structured learning for many years; the transition to having to structure cooperatively and drive your own education can be unexpected. You're now going to be mostly learning from your peers with some mentoring from your team leaders and managers. They may have suggestions for areas of study, or there may be review criteria that will help define expectations, but it's up to you to keep an open mind, adapting and learning as you go.
    – keshlam
    Commented May 9, 2023 at 18:58
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Let me tell you a secret...

Come closer.

The person who you interviewed with, doesn't know everything there is to know about space either. Neither does his boss. And the legends in the field? When they started out in the field (much like you) probably knew less about space tech then you do now.

If you have received a job offer, it is not because they think that you "know everything you need to know." It is because they think you know enough to be useful, are smart enough to learn what you need to know, and are someone they want to work with.

If they thought you "knew everything" they wouldn't be offering you an entry level position.

Entry level engineering positions exist (in good companies) so that new engineers can learn from old engineers how to be good engineers.

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  • The point is clear to me. I will work on it.
    – ayr
    Commented May 9, 2023 at 16:55
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As a working software engineer, you'll be surprised how often the problems you solve have siblings in totally different industries. Our work is not always unique and often can be solved by finding solutions to similar problems that someone else has already mastered.

For example, I suspect there isn't a big difference between processing a stream of "space" sensor data and processing financial transaction data in fintech. Different "sensors" but the problem model is very similar. A high speed stream of observations that need analysis. The specific algorithms will be different (and probably defined by someone else) but your system solutions will have the same challenges based on volume, latency, etc.

Obviously knowing more about the industry and its nuances is helpful, but if you know how to solve problems, learning the industry can be done. Much easier than the other way around.

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  • Programmers can really find application for their abilities in many areas and for this it is not necessary to become an astrophysicist or cosmologist.
    – ayr
    Commented May 9, 2023 at 16:52

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